This year the state of North Carolina has been implementing programs to make life easier and more enjoyable for those with developmental disabilities.

On Thursday, Jan. 20, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) announced another step in that direction.  The department launched a program whose name is a mouthful: the “Promoting and Expanding Competitive Integrated Employment for Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Strategic Plan.”

The name is lengthy but the idea is simple. The plan will attempt to help people with intellectual and developmental disabilities find rewarding jobs in traditional workplaces with a salary that’s above minimum wage.  The goal is also for those jobs to offer the same type of benefits that others in the workplace enjoy.

NCDHHS Secretary Kody Kinsley, who only recently replaced Dr. Mandy Cohen in that position, said in a press release Thursday that integrating those with disabilities into the workplace was essential to overall positive outcomes.

“Employment is a proven strategy for supporting overall health and wellness. The department is committed to building an inclusive workforce where individuals with and without disabilities work together, build community and thrive.”

The NCDHHS has a five-year plan that phases out “segregated employment facilities” that provide jobs only for those with disabilities.

To that end, new admissions into the segregated facilities will end on July 1 of this year.

“These facilities have provided critical supports and services to individuals with disabilities and their families,” Kinsley said. “We are committed to continuously improving our system of care and supports and working with individuals and families to maximize employment success for all.”

The NCDHHS is working with community partners across the state to make the change, which should lead to a fundamental shift in the employment conditions of many with developmental challenges in North Carolina.